Bryen Sidney SMITHER
Rank: Private
Number: 59809
Date of Death: 27 October 1918
Age: 20
Cemetery: Giavera Memorial, Italy

In the late summer of 1886, Harry Bullivant Smither and Roseanna Brown married in the Nottingham area. They lived in Sheffield and had four children whilst they were there. In about 1897, they moved to Stockport. This was, no doubt, in connection with Mr Smither’s work as a draper’s coster. They lived around Heaton Norris and Bryan was born there in about 1898, followed in 1900, by Louisa.

Nothing is known of Bryan’s early life but in 1916 he got married at All Saints Church, Heaton Norris. This will have been about the time he joined the army. His wife was Elsie Curley. She had been born Elsie Jackson but had married another solider, Edwin Curley, in 1914. Edwin had been killed in 1915. Elsie and Bryan are thought to have lived at 5 Wharf Street.

After fighting in Belgium for most of 1917, the 10th Battalion of the Fusiliers was transferred to the Italian front, where it faced the Austrian army, in support of the all but defeated Italians.

On 23 October 1918, British troops started to cross the River Piave in what would prove to be the start of the final battles in this theatre of the War. In the first two days, they cleared the islands that lie in the way of reaching the eastern bank. The final assault on the Austrians’ positions on the eastern bank was scheduled for 6.45am on the 27th and the Fusiliers would be heavily involved.

“A” and “B” Companies were on the islands, with “C” and “D” being held in reserve on the west bank. As the main assault was to go in, “A” and “B” were to form a defensive flank to protect the main attack force. However, seeing the 11th Battalion held up by enemy barbed wire which had not been destroyed by the preliminary British bombardment, “A” Company rushed forward to help cut it by hand. As they were doing so, enemy machine guns opened up from close range and there were a number of casualties.

Shortly after, the Austrian artillery found its range and intense shelling of the attackers started. The main body of the attack was still going well and the men of “A” Company had continued to press forward with them. “B” Company, holding the flank, was ordered to also push forward and, later, “C” Company, was sent into the attack.

The attack had taken almost as long as it will have taken to read this account and the east bank of the river was substantially in British hands by 7am. Many Austrians hurriedly retreated or surrendered. The attack had been a success but at a high cost. Bryan and another local man, Herbert Downs, were amongst the 50 dead (almost all having fallen victim to the early machine gun fire).

Widowed for a second time, Elsie married again the following year, at St Mary’s Church, Heaton Reddish. Her new husband was Thomas Alfred Rogers. Their marriage was also doomed to be relatively short-lived as she died in 1932 aged 36.

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